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What is Commercial Waste?

What is Commercial Waste?

The question of what is commercial waste and how to identify it is often raised by businesses. Commercial waste refers to all types of waste generated and discarded by a business, including home-based enterprises. It does not matter if you throw it in a bin, incinerate it, rinse it away or send it to a collection site – everything you don’t use or results from usage is commercial waste.

The nature and activities of organisations determine the types of waste that they produce. For example, schools and offices tend to have lots of paper waste, chemical manufacturing facilities have both solid and liquid waste, food processing plants and eateries generate significant amounts of food waste, and electronic production facilities throw away lots of electrical components. This article discusses the most common types of commercial waste and how they can be dealt with.

Examples of commercial waste

Reviewing some examples of commercial waste can help to answer questions such as what is classed as commercial waste and what is trade waste. Small to medium businesses must consider these waste types to implement effective recycling and waste destruction strategies that comply with domestic and international green regulations.

1. Packaging waste

Anything used as a container that is discarded after accessing or using that product is packaging waste. Most businesses have packaging waste in one form or another. The UK generates roughly two million tonnes of plastic and five million tonnes of paper and cardboard packaging waste every year. General types of packaging waste include:

  • Paper
  • Boxes
  • Plastic
  • Polystyrene
  • Glass
  • Metals and aluminium
  • Wood

Manufacturers may also use materials such as hessian, ceramics and cork to package items. Companies can control this waste by using sustainable packaging, which limits the need for specialist removal and disposal services.

2. Office waste

Studies show that a single office employee produces about 2kg of commercial waste per day, which includes disposing of more than 155 plastic containers a year. There is also evidence that up to 30% of this is food waste. Some ways to address office waste include:

  • Paper waste levels remain alarmingly high despite the present digital age. Offices still print and copy many documents, which make up roughly 70% of office waste. Minimising the amount of printing and copying that is required is key to reducing office waste.
  • Food waste is also prominent in office setups. Individual and event-based consumption continuously occurs during working hours. Composting stations present a solution to this problem.
  • Plastics, from food containers to used pens, are another office waste problem. Setting up central recycling bins helps to address this.
  • General office waste includes everything from polystyrene and contaminated items to office furniture, printer cartridges and outdated equipment. Choosing quality office items that are made to last helps to reduce this type of waste.

Employers must find ways to limit office waste. Confidential and secure waste receptacles effectively help dispose of this type of commercial waste and provide a platform for green initiatives and compliance.

3. Retail waste

Retail waste differs from sector to sector and is usually linked to the nature of a business. For example, a greengrocer will generate more food waste than a high-street fashion outlet. Typically, retail waste includes:

  • Packaging materials, such as cardboard
  • Unsold and faulty items
  • Display materials and seasonal decorations

4. Construction waste

This type of waste, although industry-specific, is not limited to the construction sector. For example, DIY projects at home can also produce construction waste. Commercial waste includes things such as:

  • Concrete
  • Bricks
  • Timber
  • Metals
  • Contaminated soil and other surfaces, such as areas where cement and other substances are mixed
  • Gypsum
  • Chemicals, such as paints, solvents, sealants and adhesives

5. Manufacturing waste

Apart from the construction industry, manufacturers produce the most commercial waste. As manufacturing waste is a broad category and includes many subgroups, employers should carefully assess all organic and non-organic waste sources to effectively manage them, including:

  • Process waste, such as offcuts in the textile or consumables in the food processing industries
  • Scrap metals and plastics, such as those in automobile manufacturing
  • Chemical waste, such as in oil refineries

6. Healthcare & pharmaceutical waste

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines healthcare waste as waste originating from healthcare products and activities. Pharmaceutical waste is typically medicines in one form or another. Healthcare and pharmaceutical waste include things such as:

  • Clinical waste, such as infectious linen, needles and consumables like swabs
  • Chemical waste, such as solvents, disinfectants and laboratory compounds
  • Medicinal waste, such as expired drugs and intravenous bags

7. Electronic waste

In this digital era, electronic waste is generated at a rapid rate as electronics are used throughout all industries. This equipment often contains hazardous materials or pollutants within printed circuit boards, batteries and activated phosphors. Some examples of electronic or e-waste include:

  • Desktop and portable computers
  • Phones
  • Electrical devices and appliances
  • Televisions and other displays

Businesses are often wary of reusing or selling electronics as it may compromise data and intellectual property. This makes it essential to engage the services of a WEEE recycling company to shred and recycle electronics.

8. Hazardous waste

Hazardous waste harms the environment and endangers people’s health. Employers must take special care when generating and disposing of hazardous waste. This includes materials such as:

  • Asbestos
  • Chemicals, such as solvents, pesticides, oils and toners
  • Batteries

9. Textile waste

Textile waste includes any fabric-related material. Although the fashion industry is the main culprit in this regard, it also involves others, such as carpet and automobile manufacturers, and includes:

  • Discarded clothing
  • Offcuts and scraps
  • Damaged goods

Discover why textile recycling is important in our guide.

How to dispose of commercial waste properly

As you can see, the definition of commercial waste involves a broad range of items, with some industries having typical waste products while others produce generic waste. In the UK, businesses must comply with several commercial waste disposal regulations.

Companies that regularly dispose of commercial waste should partner with an expert waste management service. At Shredall SDS Group, we can help you implement high-quality waste disposal policies, and dispose of WEEE waste and other secure data in a straightforward and compliant manner. Shredall SDS Group also provides waste transfer notes to abide by legislative requirements.

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